Natalie’s world is shaken to its core when she discovers an old photo of a woman who looks like her. Could this woman be related to her birth mother, who put Natalie up for adoption as a baby? When she tracks down the person who dumped the photo album at her thrift shop, she’s shaken again. Especially when the gorgeous fire-fighting guitarist offers to help her find the owner. They quickly become friends – which is all they’ll be, as far as Natalie’s concerned. Her rebellious youth turned her off cheating men, and the new Natalie is looking for true love and a family of her own – something Casey isn’t willing to provide. But how long can Natalie ignore her undeniable attraction to the man with the Irish accent and the broken-down ’57 Chevy?
In Chelsey Krause’s second novel, friends become lovers over a whirlwind summer of rockabilly rhythms, twirling skirts, and a mystery that takes them hilariously far out of their element.
I walk slowly up the driveway and knock on the door, my heart racing. After a couple of minutes, I knock again. Maybe they aren’t home? Maybe they didn’t hear me? I try the doorbell.
After a minute, I hear heavy, muffled footsteps.
Oh god. I should have worn a better outfit. I quickly smooth my hair with my free hand and stand a bit taller. Am I going to meet my birth mother? Or, at the very least, an aunt or something? Or my grandmother? Although, if someone cared enough to take these pictures and put them in an album, why would they throw them away? Is that the sort of person I want to meet?
The door swings open. The person standing in front of me is most definitely not a granny.
“Can I help you?” he asks as he rubs his eyes.
“Oh, I, umm…”
My brain has stalled.
He shouldn’t be the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. But for some reason, he is. He looks like he’s in his late twenties, maybe early thirties. He isn’t wearing anything that spectacular, just a plain T-shirt and fleece pants. And his dark eyebrows are a bit thick for my liking.
But those lips…thin on top, full on the bottom, framed by a cleft chin and dark stubble. And those brown eyes fringed with black lashes…
He blinks. “Okay, then. Well, if that’s all…” He starts to close the door.
“Does this belong to you?” I yelp. I shove the box into his chest. He takes a half step back and sneezes as the dust flies up around him.
He frowns. “Is this the crap I took to the thrift store?” With a confused look on his face, he hands the box back to me and crosses his arms. He leans on the door frame, making his biceps strain against his T-shirt. His entire left arm is covered in swirling blue and green tattoos. “How did you find where I live?” he asks cautiously. He has a hint of an accent. Scottish, maybe?
I roll my eyes. “Don’t flatter yourself, I’m not stalking you.”
He smirks. “Good. I’ve already got too many stalkers.”
I’m momentarily disarmed, and then I remember why I’m here. Perhaps he knows the people who live here.
Oh god. He lives here, doesn’t he? Have I been checking out a cousin or brother or something?
I take a step backward. “There were some letters inside addressed to this house. There was also a family photo album. I wondered if they were donated by mistake.”
He rubs his eyes again. “No mistake. I just bought this place and found this box in the basement. So, off to the thrift store it went.”
“You didn’t look inside?”
“You’re unbelievable,” I say.
He bows slightly. “Why, thank you.”
“What if there’d been a million dollars inside?” I ask.
“What’s it to you?”
I sigh. “Long story.”
His face seems a bit frozen. “All right.”
“I’m adopted,” I say. “When I found this box today and looked at the photo album inside, I saw pictures of a young woman who looks like me. Until today, I’ve never seen anyone else with a nose like this.”
I turn to display my profile.
He leans toward me, his dark eyebrows knitted together. “It looks fine to me.”
“It’s huge! And it’s got this weird hook thing at the end… What?”
He shakes his head. “Nothing,” he says, looking somewhere between amused and sleepy.
I feel my cheeks flush, and I wonder if dropping in unannounced was such a good idea.
“Anyway,” I continue, “even if we aren’t related, she and her family might want their pictures back.” I dig through the box a bit and show him the letters. “Do you know anyone named Nancy Carlyle?”
He shakes his head. “Never heard of her.”
I feel two distinct reactions to this news:
- Elation, because I haven’t been checking out a brother or cousin.
- Disappointment, because he can’t offer me any new information.
We’re quiet for a moment, and he shifts his weight. “Listen, I’m sorry, but I don’t know anything about…” he gestures to the cardboard box tucked under my arm “…all of that. I’m tired. I’m going to back to bed.” He gives me a casual waving salute and says, “Good luck, Thrift Shop Girl.”
I frown, feeling as though I’ve run into a brick wall. This isn’t the way I thought this would play out. I imagined that by now I’d be seated in my grandma’s kitchen eating fresh-baked biscuits and drinking tea. There’d be a teary reunion. She’d answer my burning questions. We’d laugh about our noses.
It would’ve been wonderful.
The door is halfway closed by the time I come back to the moment.
“Who’s still in bed at three p.m. on a Tuesday?” I blurt.
He winks. “Someone who had fun the night before.”
The door closes and I hear the click of the deadbolt. I trudge back to my car, limbs feeling heavy.
Okay. Let’s put some perspective on this.
First, any number of people out there could have my nose, though I’ve never actually seen them. Second, what are the odds that my adoptive family and my birth family would live in the same city after all these years? And third, what if the letters and the photo album aren’t connected at all? What if the person who lived there before was just storing the box for a friend?
My phone buzzes with a text. It’s from my youngest brother, Patrick.
Mom is wondering: Are you still coming to dinner on Friday?
Me: Yes. Matthew isn’t coming, btw.
Patrick: Good. I didn’t want to see the nasty old grouch anyway. Come early. Mom wants you to peel potatoes.
I climb into the car and slam the door shut behind me.
Me: You’re the official potato masher of the family.
Patrick: My delicate hands can’t handle it.
Me: Delicate, my arse. You’re a mechanic. See you on Friday.
I shove my phone into my purse and pull away from the curb. As I shoulder check, I glance at the house with the faded blue siding. A curtain from a side window on the upper floor is drawn slightly, and I see a pair of dark eyes looking down at me. I give a little wave.
He waves back, with an odd look on his face. So much for him going back to sleep. Maybe he’s just making sure that his weirdo stalker actually leaves.
Hmm. I wonder who Mystery Man is. I didn’t even get his name.
I try to concentrate on the road, but my mind keeps mulling the day over. Rational, logical thoughts are the loudest in my head, saying it was just a coincidence, my imagination running with a silly, childish fantasy.
But there’s one small, quiet voice underneath it all telling me that it wasn’t a coincidence, that it wasn’t a mistake. It says that I was meant to find that photo album.
And above all, it says that I need to find out who Nancy Carlyle is.
About the Author:
Chelsey Krause has a thing for thrift stores and used bookshops. A nurse, wife, Starbucks addict, and mom to two children, she can often be found repurposing other people’s junk or considering whether the library would let her move in. The rest of the time, she’s reviewing for Chicklit Club or writing. All Shook Up is her second novel.
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